Step Off The Wheel

07/29/2014

Step Off The Wheel

Place des Lices

Post 1, is there life after France? Not sure, but will try.

I should be telling you what it was to trek through the Pyrenees. Due to no thank-you, climate change, I can’t. Did anyone in the US hear about the torrential rain, flooding and destruction recently in France, notably in the Pays-Basque? If not, here to tell you it was BAD! Reference point, take a look at the clips of probably the most historic weather year on record for the Tour de France, or was that mud wrestling? I posted from France on Facebook that I couldn’t imagine that there were still climate deniers in this world, but if you know one, I’m hoping you’ll douse them with facts and images that are indisputable.

The fact is we need to collectively decide to undo the concept of “pc” and say what we need to say, thank you John Mayer. And that goes direct to the message of importance for this post. To sum up the best lesson learned from my recent travels: we must step off the wheel we’re on. How much has been chronicled about living life in the present where expectations and rules are tossed aside? Consider the work of Peter Mayle in A Year in Provence or Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love – the opportunity to experience life fully despite what society says. I haven’t been able to do such a thing ever before in my life, and I highly encourage anyone to give this a go if not once in life, then often. Throwing caution to the wind is healthy and taps creativity and vitality you have within you. Now back, all I can do is share what I learned to help others, and to try and keep this in practice for myself, a work in progress back in the US against what society demands.

Yesterday, someone reminded me that so many on Earth are sleepwalking. It is nothing to be upset about if you’re in that state. It is a life’s work to wake up; Buddhists say so. So it is, right? Not quite. Practical experience is the best teacher. For me, the process started early with my tennis coach and a philosophy teacher that encouraged me to extend beyond anything I understood – intellectually and physically. I think it is true that ignorance can be bliss, but it isn’t real. Whatever false sense of security denial allows, it never lasts and ends up hurting – you, others and the Earth. Love and beauty are the true blessings of this world and our collective experience.

The biggest gift of this world isn’t one that many of us see, and if we do, one that we’ll accept. I’ve got to say it, please forgive me as I have been influenced by ideology in the past, but religion and politics have rendered societies out of touch with what is. What is? You can’t think yourself through this one. You must experience it, live it, feel it. Imagine, however hard it might be, this basic exercise for living in the present:

1)    Cease with what you “should” do – it doesn’t matter if your parents, significant other, or society said, give yourself permission to stop

2)    Forget about the past and the future, find yourself in present time

3)    Turn off the phones and the computer, disconnect. Put yourself on an extreme technology diet. If you don’t believe me, ask Arianna Huffington, she hits this topic hard in Thrive, and echoes the same life principles of balance and simplicity that are good for the soul, health and the world.

4)    Tune into the present moment: what do you hear, see, taste, smell, feel? Your 5 senses? Use them. Check in.

5)    Open yourself. This is so hard to describe, but best I can explain, drop everything you’ve been doing and actively participate in life in the moment. Don’t critique, live. Smile, carry a sparkle in your eyes, move your body, taste things, feel things like you’ve never experienced before. Imagine that you are seeing everything for the first time, even if you’ve been there before. Take it in. I cannot emphasize enough what it is to be open – to life, to beauty, to what is possible in this world.

6)    You do not need to journal this, you don’t need to let someone know, you don’t “need to do anything,” for once, give yourself permission to live free

7)    In case you or I missed the point, as Robin Williams said from Mork & Mindy, “fly, be free,” aka LIVE. Robin Williams is a wise man. With humor, we find brilliance.

I could go into everything that happened, and didn’t, in France, but that’s my story, not yours. What I can say is how much it helped me understand who I was, what had meaning, and just how far I’d fallen from grace, or rather, living life. You’ve heard these stories many times before, but rest assured, this kind of thing works like a strange sort of magic. On my return flight, I selected Dead Poet’s Society amongst the many movie titles offered, and was reminded when you’re in sync with the world, “carpe diem”– seize the day – matters. Seize the moment. Nothing else. It isn’t complicated.

I’ve written a book about simple living with style done sustainably. If you want to get me going, ask me to talk about consumption and complexity. These two things are killing every living thing and the environment. For a species that prides itself on being so smart, I ask, how can we be so stupid? In the process of supposedly chasing dreams, we’ve crushed them. Instead of changing the world, we’ve destroyed it. Instead of helping people, we’re killing each other. Please, if nothing else, get off this wheel. It is a prayer that transcends every religious, political and social belief. We are one. We have no need to fight one another. We have no need to consume the way we do. Let the footsteps be light. Go gently. Don’t force anything. Breathe and trust that the way life works is absolutely perfect if we allow it to be that way.

I can say that my time in France was the best in my life. In touch with the present, open to everything around me, the beauty and sheer awe of how life works and what is. Sometimes you’ve got to go home to see it. Do. You may not know why and you don’t need to preplan an agenda. Living this way had me step into everything I love. You can really smile inside. When you do, you radiate that energy to the rest of the world and the world responds. I can only imagine what Earth would be like if we could all do that, all the time. The potential is huge. I saw the most beautiful things, tasted the most delicious food, and enjoyed time with some of the most amazing people I’ve been fortunate to meet.

In France, I thought often about my favorite book, The Alchemist. This was a pilgrimage of sorts. What was I searching for? I had no idea. For years Santiago, the protagonist in Coelho’s book of legend, had been my hero. I dreamed I could know as he did. Was this a journey to find the Soul of the World? Perhaps, that is if I could wake up enough to see what eluded me for years. Qu’est-ce qu’il y a? Loosely translated, what’s going on? The world, sorry I was too busy doing what I thought I was supposed to. I can’t hear you. What? The sound of voices from the past, my personal legend, qu’est-ce qu’il y a? It is here. It was here all along. I was too busy to find what I was looking for. Step off the wheel and you’ll find your life right there. I promise. Santiago did. I did. Many before have. Your life is more than the present that you see too, it is your history that you’ll discover, and it isn’t magic.

For everyone on the road less traveled by,

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Trekking

06/19/2014

Trekking

Trekking

Trekking

In the process of writing my book, a publicist from Chronicle Books suggested I write a book on how to survive crises. I dismissed it because I didn’t think the world needed more drama or talk about crises. We all have had enough of that, correct? It is the reason Maria Shriver left journalism – no more Anna Nicole Smith-type stories.

I kept this idea in mind, however, wondering if there was any good I could bring to the subject without drama. I realized the answer is “yes,” and it is what defines resiliency – something we all must have. So this goes out to all of you that might not have always had things break your way.

Let’s stop for a moment to think what happens when things don’t go the way we’d hoped. Do we  freak out, scream, drink, and indulge in destructive behavior or something else? This is where surviving and navigating life well comes in. I remember when the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred and President Obama said that we should all go home and hug our children tighter. I didn’t rest easy with that even though it is a common sentiment. Why? It is because yes, in a difficult time it is right to go hold close those that are dear to us – children or other – but there’s something missing. What? If we just retract into what is comfortable and close we miss the boat. There is a step two that is much bigger than our close relations, and that is community and society at large – reach out and expand. Can you imagine a world where we hold close those that are, but equally we reach out in the world to connect to make things better for everyone. Wow. If that could happen, wouldn’t it be a game changer? In my experience of challenge, there is retraction, but expansion must immediately follow to point things in a positive direction. If we hold on too tight, it is possible to lose perspective, particularly in matters of urgency or emergency.

I thought it was more than intimidating when someone first referred me to “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why?” by Gonzales. It is a poignant review of what works and what doesn’t, and it is clear what happens when people hold outcomes too close – it isn’t good. Gonzales discusses true stories of survival where the difference between life and death often is in knowing your capacity, and having strong perception, humility, resourcefulness and humor. Humor is critical to diffuse stress and trauma when you need to. For instance, let’s think of fighter pilots, they joke around and shoot the sh*t before they go out to ease tension. Can you imagine if they were pensive and foreboding before going into a hostile situation? Not going to work. I know this just as well, however miniscule, from sports psychology I learned as a competitive athlete. You can legitimately psyche yourself up or out.

What works? I have seen my fair share of adventure and challenge in life, and made it all work only to go deeper to help others. Check in with those you love, hold them close, and open up to look for connections everywhere. Don’t just retract, expand. I am off soon on a trekking adventure to return to some important roots, and once again not to retract (easy to do with 3 kids) but to expand and connect. My goal to help people and the planet is a big one. As we all hit the trails and expeditions of our choosing this summer, make it good, make it count and find a way. We are all here at a very important time in history, called to make a difference.

Happy trails!

The Time is NOW: People + Environment

06/06/2014

The Time is NOW: People + Environment

Environment

Caring for people and the environment is not a political issue. I am exhausted with this fundamental ethic being attributed to one party or another. At that, is anyone under the impression that politicians govern the country (or world), or would itbe safer to say it is big oil and finance that does? One of the most comprehensive articles I’ve read to date on climate change is from Michael Hoexter, in the Degrees of Responsibility for Climate Catastrophe. He states that, “People on the ground believe they are, in their isolation, too small and insignificant to remake the energy basis of society and the economy.” If we do not change this thinking it is game over for all of us, and not just on the subject of the environment. This is a time in history when we are being summoned, every single person on this planet, to work for social justice for all people worldwide, not a select few, and the larger piece – the environment that is in crisis. Hoexter offers a reality check, “Does what we are doing make sense and promote the general ends to which these activities are devoted?” Are our activities collectively doing good for people and the planet worldwide? If we look at the ever-increasing divide between rich and poor, and the destruction of the environment, I cannot imagine how anyone could believe we are.

I’ve been asked to comment on the environment, and doing so is also taking a stand for the benefit of all living things because nothing works in isolation.

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), written by 800 authors selected from 3,000 nominations provides an unbiased assessment. I can’t see how anyone would find it biased given that the IPCC is comprised of 195 member countries. The scientists and experts from around the world hail from these disciplines: meteorology, physics, oceanography, statistics, engineering, ecology, social science and economics. Please click here for the detailed report if you are not familiar with the climate change statistics and summary outlined by the IPCC.

Here’s a quick outtake:

  • Rich nations (led by the US) need to cut in half emissions by 2030 from 2010 levels in order to meet the agreed upon 2 degree Celsius ceiling (above pre-industrial levels)
  • China and India need to limit emissions, but they are burning fossil fuels (coal-fired plants) rapidly to “help end poverty” as stated
  • “Stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations will require large-scale transformations in human societies.” Most governments are not planning large changes because they fear it would be economically devastating.
  •  If things remain unchecked and temperatures rise above 2 degrees Celsius, the options for remediation are not good as stated in the report. Those technologies do not exist, and if they do in the future, they are forecasted to be outrageously expensive. It would require carbon capture from the air, and a way to store it.
  • The IPCC report states that is it at least 95% probable that human activity, rather than changes in the environment itself, are the cause of climate change

Some reports have suggested that “rich countries” come to the aid of “poor developing countries” due to historical responsibility (rich countries were and are currently the major polluters that have had devastating effects on poor countries), and because poor countries cannot afford climate-friendly solutions.

To note:

  • Over a half-trillion tons of carbon burned since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the trillionth ton burned is estimated to occur in 2040 (University of Oxford)
  • Currently, there are 3 trillion tons of carbon in the ground – fossil fuels
  • Amount of CO2 burned in the first decade of the 21st Century is twice as much as the last 2 decades of the 20th Century
  • Climate targets to reach: investment in power plants that use fossil fuels needs to decline by 20% in the next 2 decades. Simultaneously, low carbon energy needs to double.
  • What are we looking at now and in the future? Collapse of ice sheets, rapid rise in sea levels, difficulty growing food, water shortages, die-offs of forests, mass extinction of plants and animals.
  • The longer we wait, the more devastation occurs, the higher the cost to deal with the problem if it can be dealt with at all

So what do I think? We must act on a large scale. We have had years to act and have failed to do so on the scale necessary. I felt years ago and still do that the very best thing we could do for society would be to create a renewable energy sector that would lead to clean energy, mitigation of climate damage, and a new source of income for countries and individuals (jobs). I’m sure many of you feel the same way. But something has been in the way of this happening, right? Special interests, campaign money, big oil and finance, the Koch brothers, and more. We cannot as a global community allow a few “fat cats” if you will to take down Earth and the rights of all people and living things. Health and peace should be goal #1 for all and the planet. Please take a stand to help. Renewable energy costs are falling making solar and wind affordable – make the switch and force government to make this occur nationwide and worldwide. Stop investing in “dirty” companies. Vote with your dollars. Take local action. Tell a friend. Don’t stop. We owe this to future generations, and every living thing on this island home we call Earth.

As Tennyson said, never to yield…

Resiliency

05/01/2014

Resiliency

It’s funny the way writing works. I wrote a piece I wanted to share over the weekend, saved it, and then trashed it based on this week’s events. The piece was on resiliency. At the urging of a team of people close to me, I’ll write this one in the hope that it can be shared to help someone else.

Not sure if many of you know, but I divorced because of being on the receiving end of domestic violence. I stuck with it for years, hiding in corners, calling people close to me, and knew as they instructed one day would be the last. The final blows thrown my direction were devastating – to me, to my children, and to my extended family and close friends. Beyond, nobody could have prepared me for the injustice that would lie ahead in San Francisco Family Court. These stories have so often been repeated, and those around the issues know why the corruption and bias exists. I don’t want to go into that because it is just too ugly for me to consider any longer, and so horribly wrong. I can say that nearly everything I worked for in life was taken from me – not just material things, but my belief in the way things worked – I am an idealist and have a lot of faith in the good of people (now restored).

The free fall perhaps should have been more tolerable for a high-risk athlete, but it wasn’t. Very different risks and consequences involved, especially with 3 young children. Nonetheless, I pulled up from this experience that marked the ultimate low for my life. I’ve been asked by many how I did this, especially those who knew how blistering it was, and I said I suppose it is because I am an athlete. Learned to ski and play tennis at age 3, ran a mile at 4. Had a full-blown tennis career at 11. I wanted it, I had the drive. I pushed hard to improve. I worked harder than most – my parents insisted on top grades and I had them, and then played 4-5 hours a day after school, and about 8 per day on weekends or vacations, or for traveling tournaments. It was hard work, but I realize it prepared me well for what I would face in life. If I lost a match, or something was off, I’d go to my out of this world coach Myron McNamara and say let’s tweak this, and we would – from dawn into the evening hours. Pulling me off a court was no small task. It is unyielding and unwavering determination to be the best you can be that wins the day and achieves goals.

Recently, I have had time to reflect on this because this past week brought some pretty tough events. I turned a birthday age I wasn’t looking forward to, a car hit my daughter and I after running a stop sign and I was carted away in an ambulance, and in addition to injuries to my right knee and foot – I sustained a blow to my left knee. I’ve already had 8 knee surgeries from skiing. This is pretty heavy for 4 consecutive days. There’s more on top of that, so this is just to get a general idea.

For many of us, we are so outrageously overloaded with the demands on us. Personally, my list is one for about 5 people. I am sure many of you share that same feeling. What do we do when this is the ‘load’ we carry with no option to say ‘no’ to key demands? How do we pull up from devastating losses and pain? We must always return to those things that make each of us great in our own unique way. But here’s one catch, you must believe in yourself, you must not yield, and you must find a way. Giving up is not an option. Tap every one of your talents to find a solution – for me; it was being creative, inventive, scrappy, and resourceful. I used my athletic side to keep me breathing through the process. If your load is too heavy, find out each day what absolutely must get done and then know it is all right and you are doing your best – even if you are a perfectionist that wants the entire list done (I’m speaking to myself of course too). A friend reminded me today that the power of believing and turning to something bigger is essential – faith, spirituality, the outdoors – but please, not destructive things.

A friend told me prior to running the North Face Endurance Challenge a few years back to not start singing out, “the long and winding road…” so don’t do this either. Live in the moment and don’t go too far out. Life has taught me that it is better to focus on the day, the week, and the month and beyond that, goals are great but so much is subject to change. One of the hardest things to do in life is recognize that we can control some things of importance, but some big things we would like to control, we simply can’t. Letting it go and trusting in faith that good will come, possibly in time, is the only thing I’ve seen actually work.

Last night I looked up at the brilliant stars over Mill Valley and was just dazzled by the beauty of nature. Turn to nature when you can, get out there, be a steward of the Earth, and ground your feet on a trail, a beach, or in the country. You’ll never be disappointed. Resiliency is what you are made of.

Earth Day

04/22/2014

Earth Day

gross

Fried Food Bonanza at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk + Earth Day

Just returned from taking my children to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – something I have been able to avoid doing for years. My 9-year-old, Guèrin, was adamant that this year he was going – with or without me. Friends suggested I acquiesce so he’d have a “good thing” to look forward to. Me, the environmentalist, was not sure it was a “good thing” at all.

I don’t like big commercial anything, plastic, and artificial amusement. I am all for a good time! However, in this case, I knew the food situation alone would have me disturbed. The first pass walking through the amusement park was a hard go. The flashing lights, plastic everywhere, fake food, and a lot of people spending money on things I subjectively didn’t believe were healthy was hard to take. My two oldest stepped in to lead the charge with their younger sibling, knowing full well I was struggling. Once I caught my breath, I walked through with another environmentalist. He was not struggling the way I was, but was willing to discuss what was on my mind. As a strategist, I’m looking for ways to communicate authentically to reach people to help educate hoping those messages will be acted upon for greater health, wellness, and for the environment. The problem is, as we all know, when we think of only ourselves and survival of our own person or those close to us only, we’re going to have a negative impact on others and the environment. It takes making it bigger than all of us individually, and it is. If I were to swap out every food stand with sustainable food and zero waste serving pieces, that would be a great start. Swap the plastic toys and games for good old fashioned ones with wholesome prizes? The rides, hm, not sure what could be done there. But that isn’t really doing enough to address the basic problem. If you are living without the big picture and you can’t envision how to afford it or do it and still enjoy life, any messaging is not going to create positive change.

As much as I love the idea of the free market system, and allowing enterprise to work the way it has in industrialized nations, it seems evident that systems must be in place to mitigate environmental damage that is hurting the planet, people, and is putting in jeopardy a sustainable life on Earth long term. I do not believe this is a partisan issue even though it has been made one. Republicans were the early environmentalists in the US. We need to find middle ground and see that our values are to create a healthy, vibrant, environmentally sound country and world for all living things. There is no religion or belief-system that I know of that condones destruction of the Earth, resources, and life. We must find a way. Our government will need to lead the charge with each of us opting in. Our companies will have to make the numbers work creatively. We need to have faith in our country and others in our intelligence, creativity, and ability to solve complex problems for good. There can be no other shared common interest and goal that should come before this. It is our responsibility as gifted as we are to be here to live wisely and do the right thing. Happy Earth Day!

Sustainable Living

03/20/2014

Sustainable Living

Lisa Durant, author

It is coming up on the one-year anniversary of Green Things Simply Done, the blog. As is always the case in life, things have evolved for good. In my first post “Welcome,” I offered this quote from Tennyson:

“Though much is taken, much abides; and though we are not now that strength which in old days
 moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
 one equal temper of heroic hearts,made weak by time and fate, but strong in will – to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

I explained what was to come in the blog and the book. It is amazing to look back and see that this quote is as important to me as the day I first heard it, the day I wrote it in the blog, and again now. I believe that no matter what occurs in life, you must be strong in will, and you must never yield in efforts to do good.

The process of taking what to many seemed an insurmountable amount of information across every category we call “life,” and distilling it into one book, called “Green Things Simply Done” has been a passion deep and worthwhile, and has certainly demanded a heroic, unwavering heart, mind, and body. I cannot think of a better representation of how to do life well, other than the way Tennyson instructs.

Green Things Simply Done, both the book and blog, have two distinct goals:

  1. To do good for people and the Earth
  2. To outline what sustainable living is all about

I am sure point one is clear. Point two means something more than simply eco-friendly or “green” living. Sustainable living is is about the environment, but is also about choices involving health, home, relationships, community, gatherings, travel, work, and giving back. This is why I have covered topic areas that pertain to this way of living. In Green Things Simply Done, the book, I cover how the power of developing a clearly focused, well-intentioned plan results in a life by your design, and there are exercises that take you through that customization. From there, you can say “good bye” to detours off course, and any unnecessary waste of time, money, energy, and natural resources. My economics background paired with design means smart, well-intentioned, precise investing in everything yields a superior result for the individual, for relationships, for life, and for the planet.

In the blog, I am going to cover topics that pertain to holistic sustainable living – not just one slice of it. I do not mean to minimize the sustainable movement; I am suggesting it be expanded as in doing so, we will all move toward independent and shared goals.

If there is one thing I can encourage you to start doing is to ask yourself if you really “need” something. If you don’t, or it isn’t feeling right, leave it. Give yourself time to think, do not just react and buy or binge in some way that is not serving you. Our planet and health is in crisis over this issue. This isn’t punitive; it is a way of tuning into yourself to find out what is at heart center, and making wise decisions because you know. Each of us having a little more faith in that process would go a very long way.

To the road less traveled by…

Grace

02/27/2014

Grace

Papyrus 2 Lisa Durant

Quite interesting that the dictionary and thesaurus don’t think grace has a thing to do with forgiveness. What is grace?  I love my personal idea of grace, and it is fine if you don’t agree.

I’ve heard about grace all my life. As a kid what you said before a meal, while learning manners and etiquette, in finishing school, as a debutante, and in religion. Grace is strength and depth of character. Grace you afford yourself, and you extend to others when they break you or others in some way.

The grace of a ballerina, a skier, or a runner is magnificent beauty at work, but it can’t occur without a huge amount of strength, composure, determination, and forgiveness. Why forgiveness? Think about grace. To absorb shock – contact with the ground – your body must forgive. Take and absorb the blow. In life, it is just the same. Just like a downhiller, you move in a way that is strong and sleek and take in life’s road bumps. Our knees better be nimble for the shocks. If you can flex and extend with life the way a downhiller does, or an SUV off-road, your life is going to be a whole lot better I assure you.

One way to go about this is to prepare well. Set your mind that you are pure beauty, strength and power, and that you will bob and weave with life like an elite athlete. Nothing is going to throw you off your game, ever. Many ask me how I have gone through certain experiences in my life, and it is with power of mind and body that has allowed me to be resilient to charge ahead. This week, the person that brought my 3 children into the world asked me just how I’ve done it all these years, and how it is possible to be at such a place of peace. I said it was the athlete, and much was born in the blood. She said, I need to write the full story, especially about the last 14 years. Ah, well I’ll need convincing that this would help a lot of people.

For now, lean in and figure out how you create grace for yourself – powerful, mighty, spirited. Long, lean and stunning. Shine – every single person is meant to. Tell someone else how they shine, and how you care. When someone breaks your heart or devastates your expectations, do not let go. Lean in. Think. What do you want for real? Do you have the strength to forgive, to extend grace to someone and yourself to persevere in any situation? Can you go deeper to look beyond something that could hurt a lot, to see you have to go beyond your threshold of pain to get where you want to go? I am willing to share one thing from my experience of pain in life that only comes from years and acquired wisdom. Go deeper. Go deeper into the pain, into the unknown, don’t fear it, find out what is at heart center, let that be your only guide. Trust yourself. Do things nobody else thinks you should. It is worth doing because the worst thing that can happen is to react to pain quickly and lose things you are willing to fight for in your life. Athletes do. This is grace.

Time Will Come Today

01/27/2014

Time Will Come Today

California drought

Nicholas Kristof queried New York Times readers to discover what the most neglected issue was leading into 2014. Out of 1300 readers that responded on a broad range of issues, the winner, or biggest loser, was climate change. For those of us that work in this space, this is a sobering fact. Since 2007, the number of Americans that believe global warming is happening has dropped. A recession does not mean abandon what is true. We should be outraged at what damage finance (and other entities, ah government) has done to our Earth. That was quite a gamble. I don’t know any belief or value system that says greed is a stellar attribute, especially at the expense of Earth. Nothing should have taken our eye off the ball, but it did, didn’t it? Apparently, Americans are more inclined to believe that aliens have visited Earth at 77%, while only 44% believe that humans are causing climate change – what? That isn’t a funny joke Mr. Kristof, but it isn’t a joke.

I live in Northern California. We are having the driest and warmest winter on record. We have already had 30 “spare the air” days with a month left to go. Air quality is at an all time low. Governor Brown of California declared a state of emergency last week. 2013 was the California’s driest year in recorded history. Please click here for statistics.

In 2013, San Francisco had a record breaking low rainfall of 5”; the previous low was 9”. Sierra snowpack water content is 84% below average this season, the source of one-third of California’s water. Complicating matters, moving water requires energy and accounts for 19% of the state’s electric expense, and 32% of natural gas. The decrease in hydroelectric power means greater use of fossil fuels, and more increased greenhouse gases. Ah Houston, we have a problem. Please click here for statistics.

No matter where you look on the globe, extreme weather is touching everyone, be it hot, cold, or in-between. At Christmas, it was quite a site to see snow in Egypt while Sweden had none. 97% of scientists believe that climate change is caused by human activity. What will it take for everyone to understand that the drastic disruptive and destructive changes in weather are due to what we humans do?

Looking at our priorities worldwide, I can’t imagine a topic more pressing than the environment. Nothing will matter if this is not addressed. It is neither a partisan issue, nor one where there should be disagreement among countries (cue the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement). It is nobody’s right to destroy the Earth for profit and personal consumption. Of the over 7 billion people on the Earth, who was given the rights to destroy the Earth? Nobody. Civil liberties and citizen responsibility – let’s start here. Nothing we do collectively matters without clean air, water, and food, and this isn’t happening. Disease occurs because of it. Which is more sensible, a Band-Aid medical solution with more drugs and toxins, or addressing the root cause? The unhealthy denial globally isn’t going to fly. We must address this now. The Industrial Revolution has brought good things, but it is well on the way to being our demise unless we stop. History will repeat itself. We are arrogant to believe it won’t.

I cannot think of anything more important than to demand a fully sustainable lifestyle that echoes in every aspect of life. Make it different personally, send a message, stand up for what is right, and let that radiate to everyone you touch in life. At home, work, school, community, and at large with what you expect of business, government, finance, and the world. Everyone that works for the environment knows the same thing; we need each and every person to stand up to do the right thing. Do not for a moment believe you are powerless to affect change. Show the world you mean business and do this. Look into a child’s eyes, or the beauty that surrounds you and see if you can conceivably explain why destruction of the Earth makes sense. This is my second wish, a very large one, for 2014 and for every year to come.

Let it rain, at least in California…

Resolve

01/19/2014

Resolve

Wishing Flower Did anyone else roll into the new year without resolutions wondering why no clear resolutions were coming? Feeling slightly bad about that? I did. I needed 2 weeks. I hope I’m not alone. Well, I could say I want to eat more kale, save the world, discover how to fix ACL-torn knees, or how to maximize ski days. Enough of that. The time brought clarity, inspiration, and a return to what I love most. That is my simple wish for all of you for this year – clarity, inspiration, favorite things, and love!

When I worked at Martha Stewart Living, the audience often expressed concern about how to do Martha’s calendar or basically anything or everything in the book. Many thought it was too much and not possible, bordering on insane. After a moment to compose, we would explain how it was Martha’s intention and ours to share passions and things we loved with the hope to inspire others. During my time with Martha, one of the more memorable stories was about her inspiration to paint her Turkey Hill home in blue and green shades because of her love of her South American Araucana chickens. Later, this became a paint line. I believe that the beauty of that story is not just in the colors; it is the inspiration. Martha was using biomimicry – she viewed something gorgeous in nature and used it to design paint colors for the home. She saw something and shared her passion as an expression of herself for others. If you like the colors or not isn’t the point, you could have decided to try white, another home design, or become more aware of things around you to bring something enriching to your life. It would be interesting to know the metric on how many people through the years have done something different because of this story.

When I was a wee bit younger, I had a fear of flying. My family had an interesting tradition with flying, my father was a recreational pilot. It started with a flight from California to Arizona and some not-so-fun turbulence near Palm Springs that required an emergency landing. That was the beginning of one of many in my life. When I was on Semester at Sea in college, I remember 2 flights, one on Air India in India, and the other on Aeroflot in Russia that had us all wondering if those were our last moments. On the Aeroflot flight, I had to help classmates that were freaking out. I started singing, unheard of and equally terrifying itself, “My Favorite Things” from Sound of Music. I had to do something to help. I had learned a technique to shift focus when I felt fear so thought I’d give it a go. I asked my friends to start recounting things they loved. It worked. It has worked for me. I ditched fear of anything years ago. On the subject of flying, after age 20, I dreamed of becoming a helicopter or jet pilot and watched films and wondered what maneuvers at what speed I could do. Speed and flight must be genetic.

What I want to inspire you to do is to focus your lens on what you love in life. Go back in time and recall what made you happy, when you felt great, when you achieved what you wanted in life. Try to connect the thoughts with images. Write them down if you like. Connect to your youth, your favorite things, and what worked. Every single person on Earth has incredible talent, beauty and the opportunity to love and share. Find it, feel it, give it. Help others that are struggling to find what they are looking for. It is the greatest new year’s wish I have for everyone.

May the road rise up to meet you en route,

Bûche de Noël

12/13/2013

Bûche de Noël

Buche de Noel

A Bûche de Noël is one of the most notable traditions of a French Christmas. Mastering the art of making a Bûche is exciting and fun. Many recipes exist, but this one is far and away my favorite by Jacques Torres. I changed the filling and buttercream a bit, but I must say his pastry cream is divine! The best I have ever had. For this rendition, you prepare a spongecake, flavored simple sugar, chocolate pastry cream, a light chocolate buttercream, and meringues for the mushrooms.

Lisa Buche

One of the more important lessons of cooking is to know how to get egg whites to lift as the recipe requires, read carefully. When recipes say ‘fold,’ that is a big caution to go super easy with a spatula – gently lifting up and turning back in. If you don’t go about this lightly, you’ll smash those gorgeous white peaks. When you make pastry cream, be very mindful of the eggs on the stovetop, you do not want scrambled eggs!

Vintage tree for buche

When decorating your Bûche, you have limitless options. With the light brown buttercream, I used a cake fork to simulate the look of bark. I used dark chocolate shavings, a dusting of sifted powdered sugar, and the meringues primarily. Mini-vintage Christmas trees are on top. I love a natural look, and this is it. You can search for many other decorating ideas. I like to set the stage for serving. In this case, I took a large vintage wood cooking board, lined it with parchment, and then added a touch of snow, pine branches, pinecones, and a few vintage ornaments.

Buche ornament

Before the medieval era, leading up to the Winter Solstice, it was customary to burn logs, pinecones, holly, and ivy to celebrate the warmth of the season, and soon to come longer periods of sunlight. The ashes were kept as good luck to protect from lightning. In the 19th Century, the Bûche de Noël became a French symbol for Christmas, celebration with friends and family, the warmth of the season, and the new year to come.

Joyeux Noël!